There’s a Joni Mitchell song — pretty well known — with a lyric that goes something like this —
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Democracy is Paradise. Except we’re about to watch Democracy get knocked down for a lot less than a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot. All we’ll get out of our deal is a bankrupt whorehouse where even the STD’s have STD’s.
By the time most Americans realize their Democracy is gone, it’ll be just about to disappear from their rear view mirror. “What was that thing we drove past a while ago? No memory except that it was big or something. Special maybe — can’t remember any more.”
It’s perverse that the Poster Kid for Democracy never really was that IN to Democracy. Too much of a commitment. Too much like hard work. Too much responsibility. It’s worse than having a pet, fer Chrissakes. The only GOOD thing you can say about Democracy is that it won’t poop in the house. It might DIE in the House but it won’t poop there.
Americans have always treated voting like it was root canal surgery. That’s heart-breaking considering how hard some people have struggled to get here to vote AS AMERICANS, how willing others were to die — just to have a chance to live the lives Americans take for granted. Like their Democracy.
It’s not just voting though. It’s Civic Education. Civic Pride. Civic Sacrifice.
The first two are easy. Even lazy ‘patriots’ can pull those off. They can pick up a book. Read some of our founding documents — not just the ‘easy ones’ (Declaration of Independence) but the more challenging ones too — Federalist Papers anyone? Prospective Voters also can get educated by diving deeper into issues. What are they really about? What’s really at stake for who — and why (almost always the MOST important question — WHY?)
Civic Pride’s even easier. Feeling good about The Greatest Country On The Planet should be easy. But feeling good comes with a bit of responsibility. It IS important what you’re feeling good ‘about’. If you’re feeling good because America’s values are a Beacon To The World, that’s awesome. If you’re feeling good because you’re waving a flag and you’ll happily shove the business end of your flagpole up the backside of any leftist who’d dare to burn a flag — well, you might be feeling good for the wrong reasons.
That brings us to the Problem Child in the bunch: Civic Sacrifice. The thing Americans hate the most. Because it’s ‘sacrifice’. Done ‘civilly’ — meaning ‘for the greater good’ and not ‘just for self’. It’s not that Americans aren’t generous.
Americans are unfailingly generous. But they have a weird animus toward their government — OUR government. Some Americans see the government as a lethal assassin style Boogie Man capable of penetrating their brains, poisoning their garden furniture and turning their own bridgework into a spy satellite. I hope like hell that no one so afflicted read any of that — I don’t want their going off the deep end on my conscience.
This isn’t all Americans — of course it isn’t. It’s a wacky sub-set of Americans.
This wacky subset has fallen in love with a Mythic Figure (Americans — imagine!) — the Intrepid Frontiersman. They think that’s them — the guy carving A Great Nation out of a Vast Wilderness. Actually, that ‘Wilderness’ was someone else’s home but never mind. Even their Mythic Figure is a shit.
THIS, strangely, has become, for many, the Proto-Patriot. The Guy They Emulate for his ‘independence’ and ‘freedom lovin’. And this guy? He fears the government. He loathes it because all it wants to do in his fever swamp of a mind is take away his Freedoms. Well… actually, he’s only afraid they’ll take away his gun.
And,, perversely, that’s what motivates and motivated this guy. It motivated him so much — his fear that a make-believe government would march — storm-trooper like of course — into his house to take his guns — that he made it his life’s work to re-imagine the Constitution as nothing BUT a justification for gun ownership (the fact that the Constitution says exactly the opposite be damned). Well Regulated Militia, anyone?
The Gun Lobby — along with the Evangelicals who wanted to move heaven earth and our Whole Democracy to make abortion (and probably birth control itself) illegal. They have hijacked our Democracy — by semi-legal means. Ironically, what motivated them more than anything was demographics. They saw what the numbers said: There’s going to be less and less of THEM and more and more of THE OTHER. Brown people, black people, people with foreign-sounding names and strange cultures and even stranger foods.
That scares some White People almost literally to death.
This Nativism does not go well with Democracy. They are mutually exclusive propositions in fact. Can’t share the same living space without killing each other. This creates a Culture of Mistrust for Democracy. Trusting other people? Hell no. Trusting your own kind? Sure — worth a shot (you already know to get them before they get you).
These bastards somehow won the Culture War. They must have — our Elite MSM keeps telling us that it’s THEIR disappointment at Life that’s driving everything.
The rest of us never even knew a Culture War was happening. We were too busy living. Too busy enjoying the benefits that knuckle-scraping Culture Warriors are at war against. A big piece of that Culture War was aimed at Democracy. Too many diverse people watering down the voting pool? No way, Jose (to borrow an expression).
Americans need to cut the shit about what it IS to be an American.
Being an American — It was special my whole life. I refuse to let Donald Trump and his band of GOPirates make being an American less special because they’re taking racism & bigotry & misogyny & corruption to new and ‘exciting’ places.
First — we need to make Election Day A HOLIDAY. It’s a Day Off Work to CELEBRATE the most Fundamental Right of BEING an AMERICAN — getting to VOTE. We should rhapsodize about voting. We should make it automatic that on your 18th birthday, like EVERY AMERICAN, YOU get registered to vote.
Then — We should do what Australia does. They mandate that, on Election Day, you MUST go to your polling place. Once there, you do not have to vote. Once you sign in, you can leave immediately if that’s your wont. Or you can vote whatever way you like. You just have to show up.
Americans JUST HAVE TO SHOW UP.
It would be an awesome beginning. Voting — as a muscle memory exercise — becomes easier to remember to do than NOT voting.
Then there’s the relationship between Americans and paying taxes. Americans despise the idea of paying taxes because 1) it conflicts with their self-image as Frontier Guy and 2) Americans never see what they’re getting for those dollars taken from them and given to the government. Americans perceive that they get nothing for the money — except less money in THEIR pocket. If Americans could see the ‘benefits’ to paying taxes the way they see the benefit to paying more for a better cell phone or unlimited data — they’d pay it and maybe even shut up.
Not having to ever FIGHT to have the right to vote — or any of the other rights that belong to you because you are American — has made American Civic-Mindedness flabby and soft. In these here times, it needs to be rock hard. Six packs and pecs and bi-ceps all ripped to the max. It takes had work and sacrifice to get your body in shape.
Democracy works exactly the same way. With more sweat.